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What is LightScribe?

LightScribe is a new technology that Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced for labelling CD and DVD discs. The basic idea is that you buy a CD or DVD burner that supports the LightScribe technology, then buy CD or DVD discs that are specially coated on the non-data side to work with the LightScribe drives. Finally, after you burn data onto your disc, you can just pop it out, flip it over, and use a special LightScribe software application to have the drive burn a "silkscreen quality" image of your choice right into the disc. This solution may offer more safety than labels that can come unglued, or inks that may penetrate the media and damage data.

The official HP Light Scribe site displays an image of a LightScribe labelled disc. How long does it take to burn a label? The LightScribe FAQ gives a range of from 2 minutes for printing a simple text label to 20 minutes for a label with lots of graphics. The FAQ claims that printing can take place in the background, so it does not tie up your computer (although, obviously, you won't be able to do anything else with the drive that is burning the label until it completes).

The same laser that performs normal data reading and writing in the drive also handles burning the desired image into the specially-coated disc. The image is a grey-scale image, not color (though color LightScribe might be coming), so if color is a requirement you will have to investigate other labelling options.

HP is licensing the LightScribe technology to others who manufacture drives and discs, leaving it to them to make the actual products. It's not clear who will develop the necessary software needed for making the burners create graphical images.

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